College Hoops Hotbed
So the D.C. area can make a strong case as the college basketball capitol over the past few years. In fact, over the last six years, three different schools, Maryland, George Mason and Georgetown, have made the Final Four. What other state, let alone area, has had that kind of success? Yes, once again, we will drain our budget on Final Four coverage and hopefully the staff won't have to fight over full-access press passes like we did last season.
Others will explain the scene in East Rutherford. I was in St. Louis, sitting in the pressroom finishing up my game story on Florida-Oregon in the waning moments of regulation in the Georgetown game. As the lead shrunk, the crowd around the two television sets grew. So did the noise. I left my laptop and joined the crowd right before Wallace hit the three-pointer. Not too many writers worried about deadline at that point.
You know it's a stacked Final Four when Georgetown-Ohio State, Hibbert-Oden, is on the undercard. Take it all in: the return of Georgetown; the Oden factor; the UCLA mystique; and the Florida Fun Bunch of outspoken future pros. It is a Final Four reminiscent of 1993, which didn't turn out half bad in terms of memorable games and moments. You had the return of the Fab Five, Dean, Rick Pitino, Kansas and, of course, the Timeout.
UCLA-Florida has some similarities to UNLV-Duke in 1991. Granted, Florida is not undefeated. But Vegas whipped Duke in the 1990 title game, only to meet the Devils again in the national semifinals, which turned out differently. It is truly unique that in this modern day basketball world, we have a rematch in the Final Four in which both teams are similar to the previous season. One difference is Darren Collison in the lineup for Jordan Farmar. Another is Josh Shipp for the Bruins. I agree with Oregon Coach Ernie Kent, who said UCLA is better this season than last year.
Early title game prediction: UCLA-Georgetown
Okay, here is how you know that you have overdosed on the NCAA tournament. I'm with some friends in a St. Louis bar in the wee hours of the morning and we are attaching seeds to potential hookups.
For example, disheveled southern sportswriter approaches attractive woman. It was a clear 1-16 matchup. No chance. Yet the hack maintains poise, stays within his game and keeps it competitive for nearly a half, until the talent disparity becomes obvious to everyone in the arena except him. Even when defeat is inevitable, he shows no quit, applying a full-court press that has no effect on the outcome of the game.
Then, another overachiever strides up to a high seed of slightly less accomplishment to make his pitch. He has no business keeping the conversation going for more than 10 minutes. But this is a 5-12 matchup, and once in every tournament, well, you know to go with the 12 seed. This was one of those times, because with 15 minutes, the buffoon walks out the door with the woman clearly out of his league.
I give St. Louis a grade of 7 of 10. Not Tampa, but better than Buffalo. Toasted ravioli was great. Also saw John Dick while dining with the Oregon contingent in a fine steak restaurant. Dick, I'm told, is the lone surviving starter from Oregon's 1939 national title team. That was cool. Another tidbit: The trash talk by Joey Dorsey in San Antonio filtered to St. Louis almost immediately after Dorsey's interview session ended. Dorsey's ill-fated verbal attack on Oden was a hot topic even before anyone wrote it up.
Bring on Atlanta, which has potential to be anything from rewarding to catastrophic. An eclectic mix of sports writers, street agents and assorted basketball rift raft should make this trip one for the ages. Because of that, I hereby request the presence of the official Chaperone of the 2007 NCAA tournament to ensure order is maintained. He knows who he is, and he reads this Bog. But he has requested that his name not be mentioned, so I will honor that, particularly because he kept embarrassing footage off You Tube two weeks ago.
Off to the airport...
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